Welcome to the Homing Beacon Archives. The Official Newsletter of Star Wars.Com, no longer available. I have salvaged as much as I can but have only concentrated on the main part of the newsletter and not the peripheral stuff. I have used images where possible. Enjoy this blast from the past!
Thursday, January 10, 2002
Episode II International Mixes
“It’s going to be a madhouse for the next six months,” says Producer Rick McCallum. In addition to completing Episode II for North American release, international versions must be completed in time for next spring. As announced last November, Episode II will open in most countries within the same month, a move that considerably squeezes the time required to produce international mixes.
“It means we have to have the finished film done a month ahead of what we did for Episode I,” says McCallum. “It means we have to audition and cast 60 to 80 actors to do the parts in each country, and we’re in 30 different countries. All the parts have to be translated. It’s a very intense, complicated and time-consuming period, but awfully fun if we can pull it off.”
International agents in each territory gather a shortlist of local voice talent which are then sent to the production. “We listen to them and approve them, but that can take a long time because there are maybe four to five actors for each part in each country. It takes a good day to really analyze everybody for one country — if you have 30 countries, that’s a month, and the only way you can do it.”
Some of the vocal talents of returning Episode I characters will again return for Episode II. “We were very happy with Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman’s characters in almost every country. We also listened to feedback from every country. Some of it was very intense from dedicated fans who care a lot about the subtleties that no one else sees. It takes a long time.”
Thursday, January 24, 2002
Cloak & Biggar
It takes more than the robes to make a Jedi, but the dark hooded cloaks are an important visual cue to audiences as to a character’s connection to the Force. Originally, when sketching out concepts for Episode I, the Art Department tried different directions for the Jedi, but George Lucas insisted on a design that would be instantly recognizable.
Now, Episode II promises a showdown involving a huge number of Jedi — more noble Knights than have ever before been assembled on the big screen. That means an awful lot of cloaks, most of them made from scratch as opposed to Phantom Menace hand-me-downs.
“The wool fabric from Episode I, we bought bales of it,” says Trisha Biggar. “We discovered after we bought the fabric that it had been Second World War utility fabric, so it was made very heavy.” Too heavy, it would seem, for Obi-Wan Kenobi’s water-logged fisticuffs with Jango Fett. “On this Episode, we had that fabric recreated at a quarter of the weight. I know [Stunt Coordinator] Nick Gillard had his doubts about how it’s going to be when it’s wet, but I don’t think it was as bad as he thought.”
Light enough for rain-soaked pugilism, but still too heavy for speeder bike use. “There are always little problems,” says Biggar. “One day we had Anakin on his speeder going through the desert, and there’s a wind machine. Because we had bluescreens up, the wind machine couldn’t get close enough to him. We ended up having to wire the end of the cloak so that it would be pulled with the wind’s help.”
Thursday, February 07, 2002
Padmé Amidala finally gets to let her hair down. No longer Queen of Naboo, she’s freed from the stately robes and traditional make-up that all but obscured her. Now a 24-year old Senator, she’s able to define her own style and even able to relax from time to time. Managing her chestnut curls, and all the hair requirements of Episode II, is hair stylist Sue Love.
“He’s very clear about his ideas,” says Love, describing her working relationship with director George Lucas. “He explained it very well — it’s more of that old Hollywood glamour. People get confused and think ‘space age and futuristic,’ but it’s not. It’s actually completely the other way around. All the costumes and the hair, there’s a period feel to them. So, I reference old films when I work.”
Concept illustrations and notes start the process, and Love experiments with all manner of coifs and dos. She works mainly with acrylic hair, stretched or wrapped around lightweight templates covered with canvas. “We try to keep it very lightweight,” she explains. The wigs and hairpieces are often built atop casts of the actors face, so that everything can be seen in context. It is these pieces that are approved, and then actually are fitted to the actors.
As a result, very rarely are we looking at the actor’s actual hair — especially if it’s a rather elaborate set-up. Often, the actor’s hair is either completely obscured by a wig, or built upon and incorporated into the piece. “Hayden Christensen had short hair when he first arrived, so we had to just trim it a little bit. We added the braid, which is tied to a little bit of his own hair. We sew the ponytail on the back.”
A particular challenge is maintaining the pieces in the changing climates of location shooting. “It’s a battle,” says Love. “It’s all the different temperatures. When we were at Lake Como, it poured rain, and Natalie Portman had her long curls which don’t go very well in the rain. It was a constant battle to keep curling it up all the time, and to keep it looking the same. Then, the mornings in Tunisia are very, very humid. If I took her hairpiece out, all those lovely curls would just go straight.”
Portman has about 15-20 hairstyles in Episode II, and Love has a favorite. “Nothing’s difficult on Natalie. She’s so beautiful. You can put anything on her,” she says. “I think P-11 [the white jumpsuit look] is my favorite. The original design had huge loop, and I said to [Costume Designer] Trisha Biggar, what if I made that smaller, more compact? We sat in my kitchen at home — it was before I had actually started working on the film properly — wrapping hair around thin foam tubes, making these loops. We made a rough of it and sent it to George at Skywalker Ranch. It came back here with a note saying he loved it. We’ve got four copies of that now, but the original one was the one that works the most — the one made in my kitchen. She just looks so cute in it.”
Thursday, February 21, 2002
Knowing the Score
Attack of the Clones now has a musical score. John Williams composed and conducted the stirring symphonic music recorded in Abbey Studios by the London Symphony Orchestra.
Overseeing the scoring alongside Director George Lucas was Producer Rick McCallum. “It went very, very well — effortlessly, as it always does with John. Hearing a musical score for the first time is one of the most wonderful events that can happen to you. Obviously, John hears the music when he’s writing it, but no one gets the opportunity to fully experience it until then. Even though you may have heard little melodies on the piano, it never has the same impact unless you can really read music well to understand it.”
The London Symphony Orchestra included 110 players per day, plus a one-day appearance by a full choir. About a dozen people behind the scenes — music editor, music mixers and engineers — were there to capture the music for its addition to the film.
“There’s a massive amount of music, over 125 minutes worth,” says McCallum. “That’s a lot for a film; the average film has probably about 40. George made maybe five or six changes with certain cues that he wanted a little bit more intensity put in, or less. That was very easily done, especially with someone as talented as John is and as well as with music editor Ken Wannberg.”
The Williams Star Wars leitmotif style is present, with key melodies denoting characters and relationships. Certain themes from Episode I will reappear, while others from the original trilogy will begin to be foreshadowed.
“It really is an arc, now, and the music brings in all the films together,” says McCallum. “The major themes that will come in the series start in Episode I, build in Episode II, become more refined in Episode III, and then are there for IV, V and VI. One of the first new things that came up was the love theme, and thematically, it’s beautifully structured, it’s really interesting, and has really wonderful moments that preview what is about to come in terms of character development.”
Thursday, March 07, 2002
The New Trailer
This Sunday, March 10, the public will get their first look at the full trailer for Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones as it airs on FOX television in America and also is posted to the Official Star Wars website, starwars.com. The trailer will begin playing theatrically on March 15, exclusively with the animated feature Ice Age, and other films thereafter.
“With this trailer, we start to look at the story and the state of the galaxy in Episode II,” says Lucasfilm’s VP of Marketing, Jim Ward. “It sets the stage for what’s about to happen and how the characters are involved. We find out that the Republic is on the brink of war, and the Jedi are overburdened in trying to hold everything together.”
The two-and-a-half minute trailer culminates with glimpses of some of the largest action sequences ever found in a Star Wars movie. Entitled “Clone War,” this trailer begins to lift the veils of secrecy surrounding the mysterious Clone Wars first mentioned — but never elaborated upon — in the original A New Hope in 1977.
“In Episode II, we’re going to see the Jedi in action like we’ve never seen them before,” says Ward. “We’re going to see hundreds of Jedi, hundreds of lightsabers, thousands of clones, in a huge battle. The trailer gives just a hint of what’s to come.”
The trailer airs on FOX this Sunday between original episodes of “Malcolm in the Middle” (8:30-9:00 PM ET/PT) and “The X-Files” (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT).
The Episode II Previews — By the Numbers:
#1 – “Breathing” Teaser Trailer
Release: Nov. 2, theatrically with Monsters Inc.; Nov 5. on starwars.com
No. of Shots: Over 20
Musical Cues: “The Death of Qui-Gon” (Episode I); “End Title” (Episode IV)
#2 – “Mystery” Internet Preview
Release: Nov. 9, exclusive to dvd.starwars.com
No. of Shots: Over 50
Musical Cues: “Rescue from Cloud City/ Hyperspace” (Episode V); “Duel of the Fates” (Episode I)
#3 – “Forbidden Love” Teaser Trailer
Release: Nov. 15 on starwars.com; Nov. 16, theatrically with Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone
No. of Shots: Over 80
Musical Cues: “Princess Leia’s Theme” (Episode IV); “Duel of the Fates” (Episode I)
#4 – “Clone War” Trailer
Release: Mar. 10 on FOX and starwars.com; Mar. 15, theatrically with Ice Age
No. of Shots: Over 100
Musical Cues: “The Pit of Carkoon/Sail Barge Assault” (Episode VI); “The Clash of Lightsabers” (Episode V); “The Forest Battle” (Episode VI)
Thursday, April 04, 2002
The Phantom Menace had some of the most intense, hyper-kinetic saber duels ever captured on film. What will Stunt Coordinator and Swordmaster Nick Gillard bring to Attack of the Clones?
“The lightsaber fights in this film I started writing when I was still doing the last film,” explains Gillard. “You have to. You start out with more than you need, and then hone it down. Myself and Hayden Christensen rehearsed it for nearly six weeks, I think. It’s a long process and not just getting the moves, but keeping the character through it.”
Gillard defines a good stunt coordinator as someone who understands the script, the story, the characters and the mood of the film. This translates into the lightsaber fights that he writes, ensuring that each of the dueling characters has a signature style.
“We’re trying to go much more classical for some characters,” says Gillard, “Some of the characters are real master swordsmen, better than anything we’ve seen so far. So we’re using an old, classical European style for a couple of the characters.”
Of course the weapon of choice says a lot of the characters. “I’ve always said before, the Jedi have chosen a sword in a time of laser guns, so they’d better be damned good with it, and they would know every style,” says Gillard.
Aside from skilled masters, Episode II also shows young Jedi hopefuls starting down the path of lightsaber mastery — for which Gillard weathered a few blows. In the film, we see Jedi MasterYoda instruct a clan of “younglings”– helmeted children with practice lightsabers exercising with droid remotes.
“A four year old kid who can’t see and is carrying a lightsaber is a pretty scary thing,” admits the Stunt Coordinator. “Of the 100 kids we saw, we picked about 20. That was a great day, but there was one little girl that took a shine to me. She bit me in the back and hit me on the head with her lightsaber. You know, just being friendly.
Thursday, April 18, 2002
THX and TAP
It took hundreds of talented people and several years to make Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones, but as the film’s opening day nears, a small band of specialists takes over, charged with ensuring that the film’s audience sees and hears the movie exactly the way as George Lucas intended. That group consists of 25 people within the THX Theatre Alignment Program (TAP), which has provided its quality assurance services on over 1,000 films. But this history-making project is far from routine — for the first time every theatre showing the 35mm film version of the movie will get a first generation print — a print with a level of quality that is typically delivered on just a handful of “show” prints.
The mass production of such high quality prints, which TAP is charged with checking, is one benefit that comes with the decision to shoot the movie digitally, because transferring digital footage to film involves fewer duplication steps than the traditional process. “Image quality suffers slightly with each generation in the film duplication process,” explained Ted Costas, Sales and Operations Manager for TAP and the Digital Mastering Program (DMP). “Traditionally, there is one original negative, and from the original negative an interpositive is made, and from that, multiple internegatives are created. These are used to produce the prints that are distributed to theatres. But starting with a digital file — and it’s a pristine digital source master, certified by THX — we can produce multiple original negatives, and then go straight to the final prints. This way, we’re releasing first generation prints to all screens. That’s never been done before.”
To check prints, TAP has personnel at labs in Southern California, Toronto, London, Rome, Mexico City and Sydney, Australia. For the two weeks leading up to the film’s debut, technicians will be checking prints around the clock. What’s more, TAP personnel will accompany every print on its trip from the lab to the various screening facilities to ensure its safe arrival.
While that effort is underway, other TAP personnel will be aligning theatres — setting light levels and making sound system adjustments. TAP will also send each theatre an Episode II information package containing a director’s letter and service instructions to ensure that each theatre has the information needed for optimal playback. There will also be the 1-800-PHONE-THX End Credit Service that gives moviegoers the opportunity to contact THX about any presentation problems.
Keep checking starwars.com in the coming weeks for more release information.
Thursday, May 02, 2002
Celebration II is this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. Maybe you’re on the road right now. Maybe you’re in a hotel or at an Internet café, checking your email. Or maybe you’re at home, waiting until the last minute to decide to come to the biggest Star Wars party ever.
If you still can’t make it, then be sure to keep checking starwars.com this weekend for extensive coverage of Celebration II. Boiling down an entire weekend of amazing events, guests and panels into a handful of must-see highlights is nearly impossible, but here are some recommendations and a look at some of the things that will be covered at starwars.com:
Rick McCallum. Producer Rick McCallum is as inside a source on the prequel trilogy as you can get, and McCallum has generously donated his time throughout the Celebration weekend. Not only will he be fielding questions, he’ll also present the digital projection presentation that he originally showed to industry professionals at ShoWest earlier this year. Here’s your chance to see Episode II scenes the way they were meant to be seen — projected digitally. Fri. 10:00 am, Tatooine; Fri, 2:00 pm,Tatooine; Sat, 9:00 am, Tatooine; Sat, 2:30 pm, Tatooine.
Hayden Christensen. The chosen one himself will be making his first convention appearance ever. See him in person and on-stage at Celebration II as he recounts his experiences on making Episode II. Hear what it’s like to grow up as a fan of the original trilogy and end up in the most important role of the saga. Fri, 12:30 pm, Coruscant; Fri, 5:45pm, Coruscant; Sat, 11:45 am, Coruscant; Sat, 3:15 pm, Coruscant.
Ben Burtt. He’s been there since the very beginning. Over 25 years ago, Ben Burtt was tasked with gathering sounds and developing alien languages for a visionary film that few thought would ever succeed. Now, he’s still part of Star Wars and the Lucasfilm family. On Episode II, he served as picture editor and sound designer. Burtt will share over a quarter-century of insights and stories about the development of the saga and the nature of filmmaking. Sat, 3:15 pm, Coruscant; Sun, 10:00 am, Coruscant; Sun, 11 am, Dagobah.
Jonathan Hales. This is a rare chance to hear a Star Wars story-crafter talk about his work. Jonathan Hales, co-screenwriter of Attack of the Clones, will be at Celebration II. He worked closely with Star Wars creator George Lucas in honing the final drafts of Episode II into what will appear on screen. Sat, 2:30pm, Naboo; Sun, 1:00pm, Naboo.
Star Wars Fan Film Awards. Celebrate the spirit of fan creativity with Atomfilms and Lucasfilm’s presentation of the Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards. The finalists have been pared down to 44 contenders, who are vying for recognition in a number of categories, including the coveted George Lucas Selects award, which is hand-picked by George Lucas himself. Fri, 8:30pm, Coruscant.
25th Anniversary Concert. Occasionally, local orchestras will throw a Star Wars piece into a public concert because they know it’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser — but this is an opportunity to see a live concert entirely made up of Star Wars music. The Indianapolis Philharmonic Orchestra and the Circle City Chorus join for an incredible night of John Williams music that you won’t forget. Sat, 8:30pm, Coruscant.
Celebration II Costume Contest It wouldn’t be a fan convention without intricately and expertly crafted fan-made Star Wars costumes. See who’s the best of the best, as determined by celebrity judges including Episode II’s Costume Supervisor, Trisha Biggar. Sun, 1:30 pm, Coruscant.
Times and locations are subject to change; be sure to check out posted schedules the day of the event to confirm.
Tuesday, May 14, 2002
Mastering the Master
This week audiences around the world will see why exactly Yoda is referred to as the Master, but getting the tiny green alien to deliver the saber-swinging goods was a long, risky road to travel. It’s easy to write on paper that Yoda is an incredible swordsman, but realizing it on screen called for a yeoman’s effort from Industrial Light & Magic and Animation Director Rob Coleman.
In a movie filled with breakthroughs, Director George Lucas points to the computer-generated Yoda as one of the key ones. When he began work on Episode I, Lucas knew full well that the prequel trilogy would show a different side of Yoda than that seen in previous films.
“That was one of the constraints early on: I can’t do it with a puppet,” he says. “He’s got a big action sequence, and I can’t even get him to walk more than three feet. So, on The Phantom Menace, we started trying to develop digital characters. We had dinosaurs that could run through a real environment, but we’d never really done anything that could actually act as real actors and be believable.”
While Episode I featured a number of brand new digital characters — such as Sebulba, Watto and Jar Jar Binks — mastering the CG Yoda was still elusive. “Making a replica of an existing character we all knew was very hard, and quite frankly, we couldn’t pull it off in that movie. I had to go back to the puppet. I got one shot of him walking along, but basically we couldn’t do it,” says Lucas.
With the advancements in technology and artistry since Episode I, ILM tried again for Episode II. “Obviously, if I couldn’t pull it off, I was dead. I could have done it without Yoda, but the whole point was Yoda. He is in the whole climax of the movie. And fortunately, we got to the point where it looked really good,” says Lucas.
Once cameras began rolling during Episode II’s principal photography, CG Yoda was still in the R&D stage, but Lucas had faith in Coleman’s team. “We were close enough when we shot the movie that I made that commitment. When we shot the movie, we didn’t actually have Yoda accomplished at that point. It wasn’t until after that we saw a Yoda that worked,” he says.
“It was five years of artistry and development. The breakthrough was after we finished shooting. It was about a little over a year ago. Frank Oz was very excited about not having to hold his hand up a heavy puppet and be in a hole in the floor.”